The Ezra Klein Show
Is big tech addictive? Nir Eyal and I debate.
Aug 1, 2019 · 1 hr 19 min
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“How do successful companies create products people can’t put down?”

That’s the opening line of the description for Nir Eyal’s bestselling 2014 book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Hooked became a staple in Silicon Valley circles — it was even recommended to me when I started Vox — and Eyal became a celebrity.

Today, Silicon Valley’s skill at building habit-forming products is looked on more skeptically, to say the least. So I was interested to see him releasing a second book that seemed a hard reversal: Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

But Eyal doesn’t think big tech is addictive, and he sees the rhetoric of people who do — like me — as “ridiculous.” He believes the answer to digital distraction lies in individuals learning to exercise forethought and discipline, not demonizing companies that make products people love.

Eyal and I disagree quite a bit in this conversation. But it’s a disagreement worth having. Life is the sum total of what we pay attention to. Who is in control of that attention, and how we can wrest it back, is a central question of our age.

Book Recommendations:

Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann Hari

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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